Twitter’s wrath, mild though it may be, at least moved quickly on Saturday to call out the lying in yet another Donald Trump tweet.
Just 94 minutes after the U.S. president encouraged voters in North Carolina to take actions on election day that could land them in legal trouble, Twitter responded. The company added a note to the tweet informing readers that Trump’s words “violated the Twitter Rules about civic and election integrity.”
“We placed a public interest notice on this Tweet for violating our Civic Integrity Policy, specifically for encouraging people to potentially vote twice,” the note from Twitter Safety read. Trump’s tweet effectively encouraged North Carolina voters to vote twice, which is an illegal act.
The tweet earned a speedy correction from North Carolina attorney general Josh Stein. He explained how early voters who submit their ballots by mail can check online to make sure their vote is counted in a separate tweet.
NORTH CAROLINA: Do NOT do what the President directs. To make sure your ballot COUNTS, sign and send it in EARLY. Then track it ONLINE with BALLOTTRAX. Do NOT vote twice (it’s a felony), or waste your time, or unnecessarily risk exposure to more people. https://t.co/jOKYoR4hnr https://t.co/1cF6tJoHA4
— Josh Stein (@JoshStein_) September 12, 2020
Trump’s misleading remarks are only flagged rather than removed. Twitter Safety, in its explanation, leaned on the site’s now-standard approach to such matters: Acknowledging that the president’s comments are a clear violation of Twitter’s rules, but allowing it to remain “given its relevance to the ongoing public conversation.”
Per our policies, this Tweet will remain on the service given its relevance to the ongoing public conversation. Engagements with the Tweet will be limited. People will be able to Retweet with Comment, but not Like, Reply, or Retweet it.
— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) September 12, 2020
Does that really mean anything, though? The people who support Trump already believe that Twitter engages in a practice of shadow banning those who share their beliefs. Flagging his tweet, then, is just another example of Trump era “alternative facts” – which isn’t a real thing, it’s just a term concocted by Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway so she could sidestep admitting to a lie.
I just want us all to be clear here. Twitter claims it’s acting to protect the people on Twitter, but that rings false when the company allows obvious (and increasingly egregious) breaches of its own rules to continue circulating, knowing full well that a segment of its users think the company is full of shit.
These flags aren’t about protecting you, Twitter user, from being influenced by the president’s lies. They’re meant to protect “the ongoing public conversation.” Twitter is nothing without the engagement created by our daily war of words over everything from Marvel movies to the merits of one kid of chicken wing vs. another.
Trump, as has been pointed out many times before, is an engagement machine. People would keep on talking about the president’s lies and incitements even if his tweets are removed. But when they’re allowed to live? That’s more clicks for Twitter, and more direct engagement with tweets from a person who, if not for the presidency, would have earned himself a lifetime ban from the platform ages ago.